It’s a safe bet to say we spend most of our time in the pursuit of bonsai looking toward the future. Why? Well, with the exception of the perfect or “finished” bonsai on our benches, everything’s a work in progress. So we look ahead to what we’re going to do today when we wire our trees, or what we may need to do next week when it’s time to pinch, or what we plan to do next growing season. It’s September, so my thoughts are running to the next growing season. I’ve just about gotten all I can from this one.



Here’s a Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense, that I potted earlier this year.

The reason this tree came out of the ground is the very neat shari on the trunk. This feature will be with the tree essentially forever, since the growth going forward will be slow enough that the healing process won’t overtake it. So all that leaves is building the rest of the tree. I wired a new leader and some branches earlier this year. The growth has been pretty good. But I’ve still only got a leader with some leaves on it. It used to be a couple of feet longer, but I went ahead and clipped it for the purpose of this blog. There’s little growth left this year, so I won’t be missing anything.

How will this tree get a lot better in 2018?

First of all, my leader is going to produce buds in the leaf axils all along it. From these I’ll be able to select crown branches, and wire and position them. As they grow, and as the new leader I’ll select grows, its base will continue to thicken and that will make the tapering transition look smoother. I should make very good progress on this in 2018. In fact, I’d predict that with judicious pruning and pinching and wiring and shaping, I’ll mostly have a Privet bonsai in hand by the end of next year.


This Bald cypress, Taxodium distichum, has been grown from seed. It’s just a few years old. But I was able to make something of it this year – a future windswept flat-top style Cypress bonsai. Though it’s a very juvenile tree, there’s already a design with just four branches and a leader in the crown. It actually looks like something. But you can clearly see the youth here.

How does this tree get better in 2018? I have a couple of chores that will need to be done. One is to control the growth of the branches already in place. I’ll do this by first letting them grow uncontrolled, and then doing a hard pruning and wiring as needed.

The second chore is to work on the crown. I have a leader for my flat-top idea, but that’s all. It needs to fill out a lot more, and thicken more (though I have to be careful with this). I’ll do more in the crown more often than elsewhere. I can’t afford to let it get away from me.

What about the trunk, meaning the bark and the appearance of age? That’s going to come in time. As early as next year I may see the bark starting to take on some age. Even if this doesn’t happen, it’s only a matter of time.



Here’s an impressive Cedar elm, Ulmus crassifolia.

It was a bit sluggish coming off collection in April, and it took some coaxing to get it to finally kick in some strong growth. In the case of this tree, however, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Why? Well, in the case of each of the three trunks of this tree, they suffered some dieback.

While we don’t generally want to see this happen, I actually now have the opportunity to build more taper into each of the trunks. I won’t do anything more than minimal “directing” work in 2018 as the leaders continue growing, but I will be able to control where they go. So I’ll have the best of both worlds: a great trunk base (3.5″ across), and in the future terrific taper and trunk movement.



Let me know what you think of these future bonsai. I’d love to hear from you.